June 18, 2012
Atlas V Launch Delayed Until Wednesday
The scheduled launch of an Atlas V rocket carrying a top-secret national security-related payload originally scheduled for Monday morning has been delayed, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced on Sunday.
However, an environmental control system duct failure discovered Saturday has delayed the launch of the Atlas V 401 rocket and its National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) NROL-38 payload until Wednesday, June 20. The vehicle was reportedly returned to the Vertical Integration Facility in order for the duct to be removed and replaced.
"The rocket is carrying a classified payload into orbit for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office," the Orlando Sentinel reported Sunday afternoon. "Because it is a national security mission, the window of opportunity of the launch has not been disclosed yet. However, the spaceflight web site SpaceflightNow.com said the launch has a target of 8:28 a.m., and weather is forecast with a 70 percent chance of acceptable conditions for launch."
The launch will take place at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and will be the fifth ULA launch this year, the Alliance said. It is also the second of four scheduled NRO launches to take place in 2012, and the first of three set to occur over the next six weeks, the ULA added.
The first of those launches took place on May 4, as a ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the Advanced Extremely High Frequency-2 (AEHF-2) satellite for the United States Air Force (USAF) lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 2:42pm EDT.That launch marked the 30th Atlas V mission and the 60th launch for ULA.
"ULA is proud to serve alongside our mission partners and privileged that the Air Force entrusts the ULA team to deliver critical national security capability to orbit for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines around the world," Jim Sponnick, ULA's Vice President of Mission Operations, said in a statement.
"ULA remains dedicated to providing reliable, cost-effective launch services while continuing our unwavering commitment to 100 percent mission success. Today´s successful launch was the 60th since ULA was formed just over five years ago and we congratulate the AEHF team on this important step toward delivering these critical protected communications capabilities," he added.